Apolo Ohno and the South Koreans

Apolo Ohno and the South Koreans


Apolo Ohno may be a modern-day “American hero” of sorts, but he was the scourge of South Korea during and after the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.  Ohno, who won the gold medal in the Short Track event because the South Korean was disqualified, was forced to take the heat of the entire Korean nation.

After the Olympics and the controversial call, the young “netizens” of Korea started organizing boycotts of McDonald’s and anti-Americanism became rampant explicitly because of a call made by an Australian judge.

The Koreans, for some reason only known to them, did not blame the Australian judge for mis-judging a technicality and instead, put the heat squarely on Ohno, who they called a “Hollywood actor” for his motions that they claim ensured Kim Dong-Sung’s disqualification from the event.

It became so bad that Ohno and Salt Lake Olympic committee both received death threats from Korean citizens.

The irony abounds.

South Koreans are notorious cheaters in and out of the classroom. In classes, students refer to cheating as “cunning”, which lacks the negative connotation it does here and instead implies approval for someone smart enough to “fool the teacher”.  As a former University Instructor in Korea, I can tell you that their cheating methods were not always so clever (think Sarah Palin) and that Korean professors ignored their cheating approximately 99.9% of the time.

The Koreans are so infamous for cheating on the GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam) that they are one of three countries in the entire world who are not allowed to take the test on computers.

The “cheating” doesn’t stop there.

In 2002, Korea co-hosted the World Cup with Japan, and advanced further than anyone thought that they might. South Korea managed to win games against Spain and Italy based on controversial referee decisions.

The Italians (who the South Koreans openly worshipped because they thought the Italians were their European counterparts) actually  fired Ahn Jung Hwan, the Korean star who scored the golden goal against the Italians, from Perugia the day after the game.

Their reason? He was more loyal to Korea than to Italy.

Of course, this does not necessarily credit or discredit Ohno or the Koreans; it  just puts things in a different perspective for me as I watch Ohno skate from the comfort of the US as opposed to  Korea for the aftermath of the race the first time.

And, as my friend just observed, the finish to Ohno's 1500 Short Track race when the Koreans knocked each other out may just be Karmic Justice at its very finest.